in aang’s defense
im sad bc i see a lot of zutara shippers demonizing aang, especially in the southern raiders episode where katara wants to get revenge on yon rha
ok like i said before, i would die for zutara, i love them, #1 OTP, endgame in my heart etc etc and i love reading all the theories zutara shippers come up with to prove that zutara was real and should have happened bc i love the tea tbh
but i wish they would stop saying that aang wasn’t supportive of her!! that he was trying to force his beliefs and traditions on her!!! by telling her that killing yon rha and getting revenge isn’t the way to go!!!
because god dammit aang was raised by monks rightttt — people who valued all kinds of life above all else. of course he’s going to try to stop katara. i admit if i were in his situation, i would have discouraged her, too. i admire aang for standing up for what he was raised to believe.
i’m sure aang would have been supportive of katara in any other situation, but in any relationship (romantic, platonic, u name it sis) you have to draw the line somewhere. of course there will be times where you have to choose what’s right and morally good, even if that means telling the person you love to shut it and sit down. i really really loved this moment bc it shows aang’s maturity and growth. he was smitten with katara and he would have done anything for her, but here he had to stand up to her and i love it
of course i understand katara’s point of view, and i don’t know what it feels like to want to take revenge on someone so much to the point of killing them ((i’m glad i never have experienced it)). i understand that she was overcome with so much pent up fury and anger that it clouded over her other emotions and her common sense, and i’m glad she made the right choice in the end. ((i’m also v glad zuko accompanied her i love this episode there’s just too much tea))
what i’m trying to say is that using aang’s actions from this episode to prove that zuko was a better match for her is invalid. of course i believe zuko was a better match for her but this isn’t one of the reasons. pls stop with all the aang hate, bc goddamn if he wasn’t here there wouldn’t be a show, and there wouldn’t be a zutara.
i ship zutara so much it hurts but i will defend aang until my last breath. my little bald boy doesn’t deserve half of the shit he receives.
that’s all!! not trying to start anything, i just really really adore aang :3
I have to disagree on a couple of points here.
This turned out to be quite a long meta. You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t even have to read it, but I hope you would and I would be interested to hear your opinion on it.
I think you missed the major point of the criticism on Aang’s actions in this episode – it’s not about whether or not revenge is good, it’s about his insistence that Katara forgive her mother’s killer, and there is a huge difference between the two.
You mentioned three main things about the criticism – Aang being accused of pushing his believes about revenge down Katara’s throat, him being raised by monks as a reasoning for his adamant rejection of violence, and people using his actions as a “proof” that Zuko is a better suit for Katara. I’ll address all three.
I’ll start with a “self-proclamation”; I am a Zutara shipper. I actually started shipping them only a while after I finished watching the show. I wan’t particularly into shipping while I was watching, but I very much didn’t like Kataang. It just didn’t work for me for reasons not relevant for this discussion. I also had issues about Aang’s character development, but they are also not relevant right now.
Back to the issue at hand. Like I have already said, the point of the criticism isn’t surrounding the revenge part, but the forgiveness part. And here Aang is definitely shoving his believes down Katara’s throat, and annoyingly so:
Katara: Now that I know he’s out there … now that I know we can find him, I feel like I have no choice.
Aang: Katara, you do have a choice: forgiveness.
Zuko: That’s the same as doing nothing!
Aang: No, it’s not. It’s easy to do nothing, but it’s hard to forgive.
Katara: It’s not just hard, it’s impossible.
Aang: So you were just gonna take Appa anyway?
Aang: It’s okay, because I forgive you. That give you any ideas?
(I specifically hate this exchange, where they reduce Aang to a 7 years old, shockingly similar to his exchange with Zuko in”The Phoenix King” about showing the Fire Lord his baby picture to avoid violence, that just so happen to discuss a very similar subject. But that this has to do with Aang’s character growth)
Had his arguments been about revenge I wouldn’t have this much criticism about him. It would have been a fascinating discussion about the usage of violence, the right for justice and how people interpret it and a great look at Aang and Katara’s relationship (platonic or romantic, it doesn’t matter), when they find themselves facing each other with different believes. There would be room to discuss issues of support between friends, boundaries and ideologies. But this is not it. This is Aang telling Katara to forgive the man who murdered her mother and he actually had the audacity to compare her to Appa. Now, I love Appa and I know how much he is important to Aang, but for heavens sake that is not nearly the same situation. Honestly, Katara showed so much more patience and restrain towards Aang than I had watching this episode.
Considering the second issue, Aang being raised by monks isn’t an excuse every time he refuses to use violence. Like many have already said around here,
Gyatso didn’t exactly hug these Fire Nation soldiers to death
There are many more skeletons around the temple, implying that when it is necessary, Air Nomads were not hesitant to use force. Avatar Yangchen, an Air monk, down right slams this argument to Aang himself:
Yangchen: I am Avatar Yangchen, young airbender.
Aang: Avatar Yangchen, the monks always taught me that all life is sacred. Even the life of the tiniest spider-fly caught in its own web.
Yangchen: Yes. All life is sacred.
Aang: I know, I’m even a vegetarian. I’ve always tried to solve my problems by being quick or clever. And I’ve only had to use violence for necessary defense. And I’ve certainly never used it to take a life.
Yangchen: Avatar Aang, I know that you’re a gentle spirit, and the monks have taught you well, but this isn’t about you. This is about the world.
Aang: But the monks taught me that I had to detach myself from the world so my spirit could be free.
Yangchen: Many great and wise Air Nomads have detached themselves and achieved spiritual enlightenment, but the Avatar can never do it. Because your sole duty is to the world. Here is my wisdom for you: Selfless duty calls you to sacrifice your own spiritual needs, and do whatever it takes to protect the world.
Now, of course we are facing an entirely different situation with Katara. She is not threatened at the time and is not acting out of self defense. Technically speaking, killing Yon-Rha is never directly mentioned at any point in the episode, but considering the way it is presented we can assume that when they speak about “revenge” the speak about killing the man
Katara: We’re going to find the man who took my mother from me.
Zuko: Sokka told me the story of what happened. I know who did it and I know how to find him.
Aang: Um … and what exactly do you think this will accomplish?
Katara: Ugh, I knew you wouldn’t understand.
Aang: Wait! Stop! I do understand. You’re feeling unbelievable pain and rage. How do think I felt about the sandbenders when they stole Appa? How do you think I felt about the Fire Nation when I found out what happened to my people?
Zuko: She needs this, Aang. This is about getting closure and justice.
Aang: I don’t think so. I think it’s about getting revenge.
Katara: Fine, maybe it is! Maybe that’s what I need! Maybe that’s what he deserves!
But that isn’t the point of the “field-trip with Zuko”, it’s about facing Yon-Rha. What that means, even Katara doesn’t know. Maybe she’ll yell at him. Maybe she’ll throw rocks. Maybe she’ll impale him on a thousand ice shards and watch him die a horrible death like he might deserve. She doesn’t know what she’ll do, but it’s her choice to make. And not only that, forgiveness is definitely not an option, and the narrative makes both these issues very clear:
Aang: Katara? Are you okay?
Katara: I’m doing fine.
Aang: Zuko told me what you did. Or what you didn’t do, I guess. I’m proud of you.
Katara: I wanted to do it. I wanted to take out all my anger at him, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too weak to do it or because I’m strong enough not to.
Aang: You did the right thing. Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing.
Katara: But I didn’t forgive him. I’ll never forgive him.
and then it’s strengthen even more by what Zuko says and puts all of Aang’s believes into question (in a good, character-development-possibility-way that unfortunately never gets a proper treatment)
Zuko: You were right about what Katara needed. Violence wasn’t the answer.
Aang: It never is.
Zuko: Then I have a question for you. What are you gonna do when you face my father?
Circling back to the issue of violence, revenge and Appa, Aang is all the more hypocritical. When Appa was gone he was raging, just like he said himslef in this episode. But not just that – he was violent (and downright mean and never apologies for it, but that’s beside the point). We don’t really know what happens in the fighting scene at the hive, but the framing of it – the closeups on his darkened face, his image emerging scowling from the dust, Momo’s fear – makes it look very much like Aang just killed the giant bee thingy. Very non-Air-Nomady of him. And had Katara not stopped him earlier, he would have probably also killed the Sandbenders while in the Avatar state. Did he forgive them? Hell no. So, yeah, preachy and annoying and hypocritical.
It would have been much better to talk about the way Aang sees the Fire Nation and feels about them as opposed to Katara. Aang mentioned along Appa his rage at finding out about his people (a far better analogy to Katara’s mother), and we remember how he reacted at seeing Gyatso’s skeleton in the Southern Air Temple. And yet we never see him treat Fire Nation people with the same distrust or even anger as we often see Katara or Sokka or many other Water Tribe and Earh Kingdome people. Does that mean Aang forgave the Fire Nation for the genocide of his people? I don’t think so. It might be mostly a result of Aang not living through the hatred and suffering of a century long war, but it’s fascinating that while he obviously doesn’t forgive and is actively working to stopping the Fire Nation, he doesn’t seem to redirect his anger of what was done to his people by previous generations of the Fire Nation towards innocent Fire Nation citizens, or even soldiers, or even the royal family. That would have been a very interesting subject to explore.
About the final point, there isn’t really much to say. Criticism on the writing direction of Aang’s character, dislike of Kataang, and shipping Zutara are three completely different things. They do overlap on more than one occasion, but they are separate issues with separate reasoning and not everyone necessarily agree with all of them. The Southern Raiders happens to have a very problematic writing of Aang’s character that turns him into preachy and annoying and quite OOC, in a way that reflects problematic aspects of his relationship with Katara and also happens to have a great progress in Katara and Zuko’s relationship, and people might take this as cause and effect or proofs for their respective shipping preferences. Personally speaking, I have never encountered comments like the ones you’ve mentioned, but obviously I haven’t seen every single comment on this episode on the internet, so I am very sorry if you had to deal with a more toxic side of Zutarians.
Aang’s values are one of the most wonderful things about him. He is an amazing character that had so much potential but got hurt by bad writing and poor decisions made specifically in the name of shipping. Had this episode been about revenge and not forgiveness it would have been amazing. But it’s not, and that is why it’s criticized so harshly.
It’s so very good to point out that this episode is about forgiveness and not revenge. It’s about Katara figuring out what she needs to find the closure she’s never had with regards to her mother’s death. (I would talk about how she will never truly get closure because you never do, but that’s a completely different topic)
And honestly? It’s fine that Aang disagrees with that and thinks she should forgive Yon Rha. It’s fine that Aang is not perfectly wise or understanding in this episode.
What’s not fine is that it was never followed up. Aang and Katara never have a conversation about her mother outside of this episode. (In fact, we never see them actually resolve any of the issues and arguments they have in the show.) Aang doesn’t even know why or how or when her mother was killed. He doesn’t know the situation. He’s never asked. Again, as a part of character flaw/depth/etc, that’s fine. But the show never stopped to pick up and follow any of these threads, and that is the biggest reason why I think the criticism is valid. Aang had so much room to grow and be challenged, and he never was given the chance to during this season, or in what could have been the fourth book.